Via Terra Nova comes word that a new series of academic articles centered around Everquest II has just kicked off, starting with an article on 'who plays, how much, and why' (with a couple of 'oddball' gems scattered throughout the data). The results weren't always what researchers — or the general public — would expect. While there have been other studies done in MMOs, this group was the first that took place in the game engine had the full cooperation of a company like SOE. What are they going to be looking at over the course of the study?:
Are these findings representative of all virtual worlds, or all MMOs, or all fantasy titles? I have my own speculations (pretty solid for fantasy diku games), and I welcome yours. Of course, until other developers open their doors in a similar fashion, it'll all remain speculation. What can you expect from future reports? Our subsequent papers will involve research on gender differences, role players, economic modeling, social networks, group success and failure, raiding, detailed player behavior metrics, trust and community, and many others currently in the hopper. As we develop more and more metrics from the player behavior data, we will be merging these with the psychological, demographic, and attitude data from the survey. In other words, for the first time we will know who they are, what they think, and what they do on a truly systematic level.
The article itself is a quick read, and the data is condensed in charts if you're too lazy to read the full article. I'm looking forward to 'future installments' — what other oddball stats will crop up? "Who plays, how much, and why? A player census of a virtual world" [Wiley InterScience via Terra Nova]